Tips for Shopping Trips: Toddlers to Teens

December 30, 2014, Parenting Success Network

This week’s guest post is by Julie Whitus. We hope that you find it useful and look forward to future posts from Julie.

As a mother of six children, I have had some traumatic experiences in grocery stores, including meltdowns, tantrums, rude looks from strangers, and just plain embarrassment. Now my oldest child is 19 years old and my youngest is three. Throughout my years as a parent, I have come up with a few helpful tips to help make grocery shopping enjoyable for the whole family.

First, I think it is important to remember these three things before going grocery shopping:

1. Avoid shopping at high traffic times (for example, the lunch hour and dinner rush).

2. Avoid shopping when anyone is really hungry or really tired.

3. Create safety rules before entering the store, and help your children recite them. For my family they are simple: walk, hold on to the cart, and use indoor voices.

Toddler Tips

Play I Spy

While at the grocery store with a toddler, go near the item you are looking for and say, “We need bananas; what color are bananas?” “Can you help me find the yellow bananas?” This gives your toddler something to do and they enjoy helping. You can also include them in weighing produce on the scales.

Counting Games

When choosing items such as yogurt or canned foods, have your toddler help to count them or place them in the cart.

Elementary School Age Tips

Write the Shopping List

If your child loves to write or plan, have them help you write the list. My 8-year-old loves this part of shopping.

Find the Aisle, Food, and Best Price

This requires more creativity than playing I Spy with the toddler. Say things like, “Hmm, I am looking for cereal; what aisle is that in?” “We need cereal; what does that start with? Do you see an aisle that has cereal on the sign?” Depending on age and development, sometimes I make it a game and ask which child can find the best-priced item.

Tips for Teens

Menu Planning

Have your teens pick a night to cook. They can plan out the ingredients and budget. This is great because it gives the teens a mission, their choice of a meal, and an understanding of the cost of food. Also, teenagers can help to write out the shopping list, find the items and do the math to keep it to a budget.

I know as a mom that a trip to the grocery store can be challenging. Just remember that children love to help and have a developmental need to be stimulated. Feel free to try these tips or come up with your own. Of course, nothing works all the time and if a meltdown occurs, it’s okay…it happens.


Julie Whitus is an ISRS (In-Home Safety and Reunification Services) Advocate at Family Tree Relief Nursery.